Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday's Musings on Sports - When Crying Isn't a Shame

As regular readers of this blog are aware, the Monday post was usually devoted to sports with highlights and analysis of the Max Kellerman show which formerly aired on 1050 ESPN Radio. Although Max resigned from 1050 more than a year ago (he has recently resurfaced on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles), I have tried to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

After the Miami Heat's loss to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, reports began to circulate that some Miami Heat players were crying in the locker room. These news reports were fueled by Miami Coach Eric Spolstra's admission that the players were frustrated by losing and that some had been crying.

As could be easily be predicted, the media had a field day with this story. From the juvenile reporters (maturity, not age) to the more seasoned members of the press, everyone had a take on this story.

While listening to the Mike & Mike in the morning program, I heard a story recounted by Jay Bilas as to his desire to make it to the NCAA Final Four and his heartbreak and his team's despair after falling short. He talked about how some players did cry when the team was eliminated as they had come so close to the NCAA championship, but did not make it to the final weekend.

With all due deference to Tom Hanks, sometimes crying in sports is OK. When a player comes close to his goal of winning a championship, it is understandable when he breaks down if he falls short. Similarly, if a player knows that the game he is playing in will be the final game of his career, it would be understandable that he cries when the game ends.

In sharp contrast to the above scenarios is the situation involving the Miami Heat. These players have not seen the end of their journey or come close to their ultimate goal but been denied. If Coach Spolstra is to be believed, these players are crying out of frustration with losing. Given that the Heat will make the playoffs and that there is still plenty of time left for them to earn the top spot in the Eastern Conference, there is no reason for players to be manifesting their frustration by publicly crying.

The atypical crying by the Miami Heat players when they have not yet reached the end of their road reminded me of an interesting vort on Megilas Esther. The fourth perek of Esther states that the Jews had "avel gadol" translated as "great mourning" (not Alonzo) that Achasverosh had approved Haman's request for a decree to kill the Jews.

The question asked by the Sefer Mor V'Hadas on this pasuk is what is avel gadol? Are there periods of mourning which are avel katan? He answers that avel gadol is different because of the way that it manifests. Usually, a person mourns a loss and the feeling dissipates as time goes on. As such, the feeling of loss is greatest during shiva, but lessens during shloshim and the remainder of the year.

In contrast, the avel period in the megillah got worse every day. Each day the Jews realized that they were one day closer to Haman's decree being fulfilled and the end of their nation. As such there was avel gadol as the threat came closer and closer...

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